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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Portrait of Dr Paul Alexandre” by Amedeo Modigliani

"Portrait of Dr Paul Alexandre" by Amedeo Modigliani

“Portrait of Dr Paul Alexandre” by Amedeo Modigliani

This “Portrait of Dr Paul Alexandre” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of several paintings of Dr Alexandre created by Modigliani in a modern style characterised by elongation of faces and figures, that echo precursors such as Titian, Goya, and Velázquez. The elongated face and highly simplified features in this painting were influenced by Modigliani’s study of Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture.

Dr Paul Alexandre was only three years older than Modigliani and was one of his close patrons and friends. From 1907 to 1914, the two saw each other regularly, and Alexandre bought many of his paintings and acquired many of his drawings. Many of these drawings, over four hundred, have only recently, in the early 1990s, been made public, by Alexandre’s descendants.

During World War I, Alexandre was sent to the front, and at the end of the war, his demobilisation was delayed, so, unfortunately, he did not see his artist-friend again before Modigliani died in 1920.

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France and is known for portraits and nudes. Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906, where he came into contact with prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso. From 1909 to 1914, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture in which the linear form of African sculpture and the figurative Renaissance painters informed his work.  His main subject was portraits and full figures of humans, both in the images and in sculptures. Later he painted the human figure almost exclusively and created many reclining female nudes. During his life, Amedeo Modigliani had little success and died aged 35 in Paris.

Did you Know: Amedeo Modigliani

  • Simplified, elongated oval faces, gracefully sculptured noses, and simplified mouths highlight the artist’s interest in African masks.
  • Modigliani applied his paint with short stabbing actions, manipulating it while wet so that the marks of his brush are visible, as are the scratched lines made with the end of his brush to highlight the model’s hair.
  • Modigliani painted the human figure almost exclusively and created at least 26 reclining female nudes.
  • Modigliani died of tuberculosis and complications due to substance abuse and hard living.
  • Jeanne Hébuterne, pregnant with Modigliani’s second child, committed suicide the day after Modigliani’s death, which added to Modigliani’s legacy.
  • Modigliani’s explicit depiction of pubic hair in his nudes, a taboo in Salon paintings of the period, was highly controversial and led to the police closing his exhibition in 1917 on the grounds of indecency.
  • Modigliani loved poetry and recite Dante and other poets from memory. His favourite poet was remembered as a ‘diseased genius’ and a ‘loner’, reflecting Modigliani’s unpredictable moods and status as an Italian Jew in Paris.
  • His nickname, Modi, rhymes with the French word “maudit”, meaning “accursed”, a name acquired because of his lifestyle.

Explore Modigliani

Explore Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art

Reflections

  • Has this painting been influenced by African and Oceanic sculpture?
  • Imagine discovering in your families belongings previously unknown art or correspondence from a famous historical figure.

Portrait of Dr Paul Alexandre

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani Quotes

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“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”

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“What I look for is neither reality nor unreality but the subconscious, the instinctive mystery of the human race.”

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“It is your duty in life to save your dream.”

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“You are not alive unless you know you are living.”

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“Rome is not outside me, but inside me.. Her feverish sweetness, her tragic countryside, her own beauty and harmony, all these are mine, for my thought and my work.”

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“With one eye you are looking at the outside world, while with the other you are looking within yourself.”

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“I want to be a tune swept fiddle string that feels the master melody, and snaps.”

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“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.”

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“Happiness is an angel with a serious face.”

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“The function of art is to struggle against obligation.”

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“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”
– Amedeo Modigliani

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Photo Credit 1) JOM

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